MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — Wednesday’s series finale between the Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals will feature a display of perseverance on the pitching mound.
Starting pitchers Brad Hand and Tanner Roark have battled through all different kinds of adversity while trying to secure a spot in their respective starting rotations.
While Roark has developed into one of Washington’s most reliable starters, Hand has come a long way for Miami since being roughed up twice by the Nationals back in April.
They’ll oppose each other Wednesday as the Marlins seek a seventh straight victory and a three-game home sweep of the Nationals.
Roark (10-6, 2.82 ERA) entered spring training in competition for Washington’s fifth rotation spot after going 7-1 with a 1.51 ERA in five starts and nine relief appearance as a rookie in 2013 following his call-up in early August.
The right-hander has excelled since winning the job. He’s won his last three starts while giving up one run in seven innings in each and allowed three singles and struck out six in Friday’s 4-1 victory over Cincinnati.
Roark, who has allowed fewer than three runs in eight of his last 10 outings, is tied with Doug Fister for the team lead in wins.
“I took the opportunity and tried to run away with it,” Roark said. “It’s been a good ride so far.”
Washington has a star-studded rotation featuring Fister, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann, but it’s Roark who has quickly made a name for himself behind the best ERA of the bunch.
The Nationals’ 3.11 ERA is the best in the NL.
“We have the big guns and the big names, but you have to give (Roark) a lot of credit being in the back of the rotation and doing what he has done,” outfielder Denard Span said.
Roark is 1-1 with a 2.79 ERA in three starts against the Marlins, including two this season. He’ll look to outduel Hand (2-2, 4.19), who only recently has gotten another chance to prove he belongs in Miami’s rotation.
Hand struggled in starts against Washington (57-47) on April 9 and 14, giving up eight runs and 12 hits over 6 1-3 innings as the Marlins lost both contests. That led to the left-hander’s demotion to the bullpen.
He made 12 straight relief appearances before going on the disabled list May 24 with a sprained right ankle, but he’s 2-1 with a 2.43 ERA in five starts since coming off the DL and rejoining the rotation.
Hand allowed three hits in 7 1-3 innings of Friday’s 2-0 victory over Houston to win his second straight outing.
“I am still trying to go out every fifth day and solidify myself in this rotation,” Hand said. “Nothing is going to be given. I’m going to have to prove it every fifth day.”
The Marlins (53-53) have won nine of 10 and are back to .500 for the first time since they were 39-39 on June 25. They were a season-worst eight under on July 19.
Giancarlo Stanton, who hit a two-run homer off Roark on May 26, had two RBIs in Tuesday’s 3-0 win – one night after Miami rallied from a six-run deficit to win 7-6.
The Marlins pulled within five games of the NL East lead, which is shared by Washington and Atlanta.
“Guys are excited, there’s a lot of confidence,” manager Mike Redmond said.
The Nationals have dropped four of six and will end a nine-game trip with this contest. Bryce Harper had two hits and is batting .462 while hitting safely in all seven of his games against the Marlins this season.
Jayson Werth didn’t start Tuesday after spraining his right ankle in the series opener but could be back in the starting lineup for this contest.
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